Anti-tobacco rally held at Utah State Capitol

SALT LAKE CITY — People gathered at the Utah State Capitol Thursday morning for a rally supporting tighter tobacco laws.

When it comes to tobacco prevention, Utah is lagging behind the rest of the nation. The American Lung Association has came out with a recent report basically giving Utah an F grade when it comes to tobacco prevention.

Anti-tobacco organizations joined health leaders and students in calling for some sweeping changes that will protect the community from the harmful effects of tobacco. They said they are calling on lawmakers to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 19 to 21.

Health leaders at the Capitol said they are also trying to regulate the use of e-cigarettes.

Aaron Frazier, the Director at Utah Vapers, issued this statement regarding the Senate bill that would raise the minimum age requirement for tobacco sales and regulate electronic cigarette sales:

The Utah Vapers is going on record to oppose SB0012 “Age limit for Tobacco and related products” as it is currently drafted. If enacted as written, this bill would:

Raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products (and by default e-cigarettes) to 21. Create a prohibition of online retail sales of electronic cigarette related products to and from Utah.

While the Utah Vapers does support efforts to control youth access of tobacco and related products, Senator Reid has included language in section 76-10-105-1 (buried near the bottom of the bill) which if passes as written, will create an online prohibition of electronic cigarettes for the state of Utah. This means that NO Utah resident will be legally able to purchase products online from anywhere in the world. This also bans Utah retailers from having the ability to compete with the 2000+ online retailers across the United States or service Utah residents located in rural areas that have no access to physical retail outlets.

Senator Reid believes this will save consumers money and elevate state revenue through added sales tax by forcing residents to purchase in-state. However, due to the highly restrictive zoning requirements which retail locations are forced into, our retailers are unable to open leaving online stores as the only available option. The Utah Vapers believes this will force e-cigarette consumers in rural areas of the state back to smoking deadly cigarettes.

We are encouraging the Utah Legislature to set up an investigative bi-partisan committee to undertake a formal review of the body of research on electronic cigarettes before passing any further laws on this topic. To date, all decisions and laws passed were done based on information from the Tobacco Control organizations which are not providing all available data on electronic cigarettes to our lawmakers. This committee should be charged with meeting with researchers, health professionals, public and the industry to study all aspects to truly understand the impact to both the Utah population and the small businesses that support the consumers throughout the state and country.

At no time has Senator Reid or any of his staff reached out to the Utah Vapers or our members to truly understand the impact this will have on the community who rely upon these products to remain smoke-free. We have reached out to his office this week to request a meeting so we can discuss the business and population level impact of his proposal but have not received a response at this time.